Since vacation homes are empty for most of the year, keeping them securely locked up is one of the main considerations. This was especially true for Casa Caldera, which is located only 15 miles (24 km) north of the US-Mexico border. Keeping this vacation home secure while unoccupied was one of the main concerns when designing it, and the architecture firm Dust of Tucson, Arizona did a great job on it, making it both secure and highly sustainable at the same time. In addition, only a single truck-full of waste was produced during construction.
From the outside, the home looks a lot like a bunker. It was made using “LavaCrete,” which is comprised of red scoria, lava rock, cement and water, and the color makes it blend in almost seamlessly with the wild grass and trees surrounding it. In fact, it’s quite possible to walk right past it and never even notice it.
As for the interior layout, the home is arranged around a so-called zaguán, which is basically a large ventilating corridor that transverses the center of the house and can be used as a dining or sleeping area if needed. On one side of this corridor are the living area and kitchen, which are placed behind a large glass door. On the other side of the zaguán are the home’s two bedrooms and a bathroom, which are located behind a wooden door.
At each end of the corridor, they placed bi-folding metal doors, which are designed in a way that allows them to be opened or closed at multiple angles, to let light and air into the home. There are only a few small windows, which have thick steel window frames and are fully operable. The designers balanced the air pressure of the home in a way that pulls air in naturally and works to cool the interior. The home also has 18 in (45 cm)-thick walls, which together with the great ventilation properties ensures that the home needs no air conditioning even in the summer. To heat the house in the cooler months, they installed a fireplace and a small wood-burning stove.
They also installed a solar power array, while water is drawn from a nearby well, meaning that the home can operate completely off-the-gird. They also installed LED lighting throughout, while the water heater, oven and fridge are powered by propane gas bottles.